Fire destroys Jarvis Street heritage home once owned by prominent Toronto family

A piece of Toronto history and family history has been destroyed after a fire gutted a heritage property at 314 Jarvis St. Monday morning.

Former medical officer of health owned property in early 1900s.

Sarah Sheard shares history of her family home on Jarvis Street that has been gutted by a fire. 1:29

A fire destroyed not only a piece of Toronto's history on Jarvis Street Monday morning, but also a piece of a prominent family's past.

Flames swept through a heritage home at 314 Jarvis St., which was once owned by the Sheard family of Toronto. It was the first house Sarah Sheard lived in with her parents in 1953.

"It's a heartbreak to me to hear that it's been pretty much gutted by fire, and will likely be demolished," said Sheard during a telephone interview Monday morning.

Firefighters were called to the scene of a fire at 314 Jarvis St. at about 5:15 a.m. Monday morning. (Tony Smyth/CBC)

The house was built in 1865, and it was altered in 1901 by architect Matthew Sheard for his brother, Dr. Charles Sheard.

He was Toronto's Chief Medical Officer of Health and also served as a member of parliament from 1917-1925. Sheard's father, Joseph Sheard, was an architect and served as Mayor of Toronto from 1871 to 1872. 
Photo of Dr. Charles Sheard owned 314 Jarvis St. in the early 1900s. (Sarah Sheard)

Dr. Sheard's wife, Virna Sheard, was a prominent poet. They were Sarah Sheard's great-grandparents.

Decades later, the property was divided into apartments after a request from the city, which was trying to create more rental space during the Second World War.

Photo of Virna Sheard, poet, lived at 314 Jarvis St. with husband Dr. Charles Sheard in early 1900s. (Sarah Sheard)
The home was eventually sold to a developer, whose proposal for a 43-storey condo building at the site was rejected by the city.

The developer has appealed that ruling.

"I always had a great fondness for 314. It's sort of a little old piece of history, embedded in post-modern Toronto," Sarah Sheard told CBC News.

Sheard's father died last year, and his death prompted her to dig into her family's past, including the home.

"I definitely remember my father talking fondly of it. It just was part of our family," said Sheard.

She has been in the process of drafting a family memoir.
Sarah Sheard, great-grand daughter of Dr. Charles Sheard, lived in 314 Jarvis St. in for six months as an infant in 1953. (Sarah Sheard)

"The last thing I wanted to hear was that this fantastic old building had got destroyed before I had a chance really to go over there and video, and do some other things."

The only piece of the home Sheard has left is a bed that she inherited after her father died that has been passed down through the generations. 

Sarah Sheard inherited this bed that has been passed down through generations of Sheard family. (Sarah Sheard)

Sheard says she still will push through with her memoir.

"It's my loss, and the price I paid for waiting just a little bit too long," Sheard said. "Don't wait, I guess is the lesson in all of this."

Comments

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.